Saturday, March 22, 2008
Finding a Way to Win
(Boulder-CO) This may not have been the most pleasing game to watch, but I do have to give the Nuggets their due for finding a way to beat the Nets, in the IZOD Center, despite not playing their best game. Carmelo disappeared after the first quarter, but it didn't matter as both Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith were electric off the bench in helping the Nuggets cut down the Nets, 125-114.
This game started out beautifully if you are a Nuggets fan. Denver came out firing on offense and stingy on defense with a 9-2 run. Carmelo scored 13 first quarter points, handed out a pair of dimes, and snatch a pair of rebounds while serving as the leader of a 33-25 charge in the first 12 minutes.
In the second, Carmelo handed off the offensive leader role to Linas Kleiza. LK hurt the Nets for 13 points off of three, three-pointers and a couple of driving buckets as the Nuggets once again out dueled the Nets, 34-30, in the second quarter. Carmelo assumed the role of facilitator by deferring to his teammates while attracting double teams and J.R. Smith was a direct beneficiary of this. J.R. scored six points, including a nasty dunk on Josh Boone for the deuce and the abuse of which he capped off by knocking down the free-throw.
By all accounts this was a solid first half by the Nuggets. They had shot 60% from the field while holding the Nets to only 48%, and had done a good job of taking the ball out of Vince Carter's hands. Love him or hate him, Vinsanity is the only player on the Nets that the Nuggets needed to hold in check and they did so. Kudos.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets forgot to flip the intensity switch back on after halftime because the Nets came right out of intermission and erased the ten-point lead the Nuggets had built before the quarters end. And it's not just the five Nuggets' that were in the game faults. Maybe George Karl didn't now where the scoreboard was in the IZOD Center, but Karl failed to call a time-out as the Nets went on a 14-4 run which actually gave the New Jersey a two-point advantage with 90 seconds remaining in the third period. EARTH TO GEORGE: You're coaching a basketball ball game! Could you at least pretend to know what you're doing in these types of situations? A timeout should have been called. A substitution should have been made to try and cool off Vince Carter as VC was scoring basket after basket, and you should have told the team to stop shooting contested jumpers with substantial amounts of time on the 24-second clock.
Too many times this season the five Nuggets on the floor have been hung out to dry as the five opposing players gain the upper hand because they have a sixth man in a suit out-performing theirs. This was a clear example of one of those times and I really do have to place the onus of blame on George Karl for the third period. Sure, Vince Carter may have continued an offensive barrage regardless, but without at least altering the game plan to try and slow him down. Karl metaphorically stood watch while the bleeding continued and as a result put this team's back against the wall in the fourth quarter.
Thankfully, the Nuggets flipped on that switch and went on an 11-0 run to open up the money quarter by riding J.R., Linas, and AI to victory. J.R. added another four points in the fourth to finish with 12 points in 17 minutes of playing time. Linas chipped in another seven in the fourth to bring his total off the bench to 23 points. AI kicked in another nine of his team-high 26 points and brought his assist total up to nine as the Nuggets out lasted the Nets, 125-114.
I guess there's only one question that I still have. Where'd you go 'Melo? After torching the Nets for 13 first quarter points in the first ten minutes, Carmelo didn't score for the next 34 minutes of the game before adding another four points in the final minutes to finish with 17.